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“Masturbatory Hack” in a Headline

from the NY Observer

The 20th Century’s Vermeer, or a Masturbatory Hack?

Ignored by the academy, scorned by knife-wielding critics, Pierre Bonnard gets the last laugh
BY MARIO NAVES

masturbatory.pngThe old man faces us, naked from the waist up. His bald head, covered in shadow but sharply defined, tilts forward at a niggling angle—as if its weight were increasingly untenable. His skin is translucent and seems barely capable of holding together. Propped within an almost impossibly compressed space, the man gazes intently at nothing in particular. He is, it is clear, distracted by his own mortality.

You’d have to go to Rembrandt or Goya to find as pitiless a depiction of the human animal as Pierre Bonnard’s Portrait of the Artist in the Bathroom Mirror (Self-Portrait) (1939-46), on display in “Pierre Bonnard: The Late Interiors” at the Met. Is there a modern or contemporary artist who dedicated himself to flesh and bone with as much terrifying candor? German Expressionists are stylistic show-boaters in comparison; Lucian Freud, a cackhanded academician. Alice Neel? Cartoon angst. Jenny Saville? Oh, please.

Portrait of the Artist in the Bathroom Mirror (Self-Portrait) and the less scabrous if equally intenseSelf-Portrait (1938-40) are, literally speaking, the odd men out at the Met. Nowhere else in the exhibition does Bonnard plumb psyche or physiognomy with as much daunting specificity.

[ click to continue reading at The New York Observer ]

Posted on February 10, 2009 by Editor

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